Who is responsible for making sure our customers’ first glimpse of our products is fresh? From billboards and semi-trailer trucks you pass on the road to Grandma’s house, to the recipes you find on Kroger.com this holiday season, it takes the precision, planning and passion of talented artists to make the photos that move us to shop.

kroger_food_styling_teamHidden in a photo studio in Louisville, Ky., a team of six talented associates work tirelessly to make what could be ordinary images into mouth-watering masterpieces that awaken our taste buds. Together, they have years of experience in the culinary arts, fine arts and graphic design. They share the responsibility of creating the first look at what entices customers to select our products.


This team has a strong foundation of collaboration and unique skillsets from different experiences and backgrounds. They teach, encourage and learn from one another, and the result is a beautiful image. Teamwork truly is the secret to their success.


“When people hear I’m a food stylist, they say, ‘Oh, you make fake ice cream out of Crisco™,’’’ says Maggie Freeman, food stylist. In reality, most of the ingredients used on set are real and purchased fresh before the photo shoot by Dixie Johnson, studio assistant and the team’s “dedicated shopper.” Every shoot begins with Dixie.


Dixie has been with Kroger for four years. She knows how to pick the products that will look best in a shoot. She takes a detailed shopping list to the stores to ensure the team has what they need to style and photograph.


“I like the diversity of my job,” explains Dixie. “I do a lot of different things and shopping gets me out of the office, up and moving and working with a lot of different people.” Dixie, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the Louisville School of Fine Arts, considers herself an “image sleuth.” If the teams needs image that can’t be found, she won’t stop until she finds it or gets whatever they need for a new one.


Once she delivers items to the kitchen and food prep begins, Maggie and Carla Nalley, styled food photographer, begin working on a tablescape.


kroger_food_styling_trayOn one shoot, the team was creating a holiday theme with desserts. Together, they planned out silver and gold table décor accompanied by champagne and a trio of “dessert shooters.” Once the desserts began to take shape, Maggie moved from the kitchen to the studio to start styling.


A single shoot can take hours. It’s a carefully choreographed dance. Maggie moves items on the table while Carla directs from behind the camera’s lens. They work in sync to shift, nudge, add and subtract items in the shot until the balance is just right. This routine has become second nature to the duo over time. They work so well together, even sharing their own “language” on set.


After pressing the shutter and capturing the image, team members Troy Wade, Jan Noe and Victoria Thompson go to work and make necessary edits or enhancements. It’s all in the details! The color needs to be just right, wrinkles and creases removed from packages, meat cooked and produce freshened up. No matter the need, the team does it all.
kroger_food_styling_vertical2Troy joined Kroger 10 years ago and studied graphic design at Sullivan College. He has an eye for detail. “I’m a perfectionist,” says Troy. “I look at a photo for two seconds and notice things that are wrong with it right away.” The team enjoys working and learning together. Troy has picked up tricks of the trade from his teammates, and they always work together to deliver the best product. “Print or billboards are our customers’ first impression!”


Just how long does it take to perfect an image? “Until it is finished,” says Victoria. “There is no set time limit. It’s quality over quantity.” She has been with Kroger three years, and her background in TV brings a unique perspective to the team. “We have to make sure our images are pleasing and the color is correct. It has to be perfect.”


“It quit being food to me a long time ago,” adds Jan. “It’s art.” She studied painting and art, which translates to digital images today where light and colors are critical to making a picture pop off a page or screen. Jan has been at Kroger for 21 years and doesn’t want to be anywhere else. “I love what I do. I’ve always been creative and into art. My job is challenging and I get to learn all the time. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.”